This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of The Equiery.
Over the past 40 years, Waredaca has expanded its USEA events from one a year with two levels to three events annually offering Beginner Novice through Intermediate levels as well as a USEA Classic Series Three-Day Event at the Novice through Preliminary levels.
A Camping Beginning
Waredaca, an acronym for Washington Recreational Day Camp, moved to its current location in 1953 when Beecher and Marian Butts, current owner Robert Butts’ parents, purchased the property to run an overnight outdoors summer camp. Horseback riding was just one part of the camp but became a staple at the farm as it grew into a year-round lesson program.
As the farm began to transition from the outdoors summer camp to a year-round riding program offering a summer riding oriented day camp, Gretchen Butts, who married Robert in 1975, was the girls’ summer camp riding program director. Through her pony club and eventing background, Gretchen introduced the farm to the sport of eventing with rally-type competitions for the summer camp participants.
Then in 1979, Waredaca made the leap from schooling shows for its campers to its first USCTA competition.
The First Few Years
The legendary Sally O’Connor was running her riding business out of Waredaca in the 1970s and was a key supporter of the early events at the farm. “She really helped hold our hands and guide us in the right direction,” Gretchen said. Sally and Robert were the first course designers for the event while Gretchen acted as secretary and event organizer.
“Redland Hunt Pony Club was looking for a new location for their event so we made a deal with them to hold it here and that was how the first few years were run,” Robert added. Redland would host its spring horse trials at Waredaca and then provide the volunteers and support staff needed for Waredaca’s own fall horse trials.
“When Redland moved over to Charlie Mess’ place, we had a similar agreement with Howard County-Iron Bridge Hounds,” Robert explained. The club co-hosted the Waredaca – Howard County/Iron Bridge Hounds Horse Trials each June in the early 1990s.
Today, the farm still works with hunt clubs and pony clubs with Goshen Hounds picking up the volunteer reins at many of Waredaca’s events and the Waredaca Pony Club Riding Center’s parents stepping in as well.
Evolving & Moving Forward
As is with any venue that has hosted events for as long as Waredaca, the facility is constantly evolving to both keep up with the latest official rules and offer competitors fresh courses.
Early events held all three phases on grass. As all-weather footing arenas were built, dressage and show jumping moved from the fields into the now centralized arenas. Even in the early days, the cross-country courses tended to start or end in the “hay field” with the current courses shifting to different areas of the farm depending on the time of year and footing.
Preliminary was added in the early 1990s and Robert went through the USEF course design program to earn the “r” license, which he continues to hold today. US Olympian David O’Connor, who Gretchen remembers helping set up dressage rings in his younger days, is now the course designer for the Intermediate level, which was added about 15 years ago.
At one point, USCTA asked Waredaca to host the first adult team championships, which remained at the farm for several years.
In 2004, the USEA asked Waredaca to host the first USEA Classic Series Three-Day in the country as a pilot program. At a time when three-day events at the international level had dropped the long format, USEA members were looking for long format opportunities and this first three-day was run at the Training level as an educational opportunity. This year, the Waredaca Classic Three-Day celebrates is 15th anniversary and will hold Novice through Preliminary levels.
When the USEA began the Young Event Horse program, Waredaca promptly added these classes to its spring and summer events making Waredaca one of the qualifying events for those looking to compete at the YEH East Coast Championships, held at Fair Hill this month. Waredaca also added Future Event Horse (in-hand) classes when that program was launched nationally.
This year, Waredaca added the Modified division, which Robert says is “probably here to stay due to the FEI changes to the stars levels.” He is referring to the new CCI*, which is a three-day event at the Modified level. Thus Waredaca now holds events at every USEA-sanctioned level except for Advanced.
“Waredaca has been putting on their Horse Trials for 40 years now, and I have been there for most of them!,” said event rider and trainer Phyllis Dawson of Windchase in Virginia. “Always a well organized and fun event, and a super place for the up and coming horses and riders to gain experience. And it has been fun to watch how the facility and the event improves each and every year! Looking forward to 40 more.”
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